36 years ago today in 1974, Gerald Ford became the first US President to come into office without a single vote being cast in his favour. The unprecedented transition of power under the 25th amendment officially occurred when Mr Nixon handed a letter of resignation to his Secretary of State Dr Henry Kissinger.
Speaking only minutes after taking the oath of office in the East Room of the White House, he said: “You have not elected me as your president by your ballots. So I ask you to confirm me as your president with your prayers.”
It’s hard to build your reputation and your ‘personal brand’ when people haven’t had the chance to see what you stand for.
What interests me as a marketer though is that during this time, significant research was done to establish what the average attention span of each person was, so that Gerald Ford could attempt to win over the hearts and minds of the population, using media sound-bites on tv and radio.
The results make fascinating reading and show just how hard leaders have to work to get their message across (the same goes for entrepreneurs and brand owners).
Average Attention Span of the US Public for Political Soundbites
- 1967 – 42 seconds
- 1974 – 35 seconds
- 1992 – 9 seconds
- 2008 – Less than 5 seconds
President Ford served just over two years in office before he lost to Jimmy Carter in a closely fought election in November 1976. He arrived at a difficult time with public emotions running high, due to the government was still embroiled in accusations of corruption in the wake of the Watergate scandal.
Ford didn’t do himself any favours winning public opinion either when he formally pardoned former US President Richard Nixon just two months after coming into power. After that President Ford’s reputation never recovered and within a year of coming to power he survived two assassination attempts in the space of 17 days.
I guess Gerald Ford didn’t quite perfect his 35 seconds. Make sure you don’t make the same mistake because today, you’ve got less than 5 seconds to land your message.